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Woodbury’s emergency services commander Mike Richardson offers insight into the city’s public safety department.

How much do you know about your local public safety department? You may not know that the Woodbury public safety department is quite unique in its organization. In fact, according to emergency services commander and Woodbury resident Mike Richardson, the department is one of a kind.

As Richardson tells it, the structure of Woodbury's public safety department emerged fairly organically over the past several decades, resulting from the need to use available resources—everything from time to manpower to funds—as efficiently as possible. In Woodbury, police, fire, emergency medical services, and emergency management are integrated, operating out of one building. Employees are often trained in a combination of areas; a Woodbury police officer or firefighter mostly likely is also trained as a medic or first responder.

“In a city like St. Paul, where you have separate police and fire departments, you need a large staff to respond to the volume of calls received,” Richardson says. “Unfortunately, that means a lot of staff sitting idle for periods of time.” By cross-training staff in multiple areas of emergency response, the Woodbury department can reach maximum efficiency. Richardson’s own position is a great example of this. As emergency services commander (a position he has held since it was created in 2010), his duties are three-fold: emergency management coordination, city health and safety coordination, and incident management on behalf of the fire department, where he works with two other fire commanders.

Emergency management coordination is essentially just what it sounds like. Should an emergency arise in the community, anything from severe weather to power outages to flooding, it’s Richardson’s job to make sure the city, its residents and its emergency staff are prepared to respond. “I’m responsible for the city’s emergency planning, response, mitigation, recover and preparedness training,” Richardson says. He also works with local businesses, the school district, hospitals and various levels of local government to develop emergency plans.

As the leader in the area of city health and safety coordination, Richardson works with city officials and employees to make sure city buildings and facilities are safe for those who work there. This includes conducting safety walk-throughs of all city buildings, dealing with infrastructure problems and vandalism, and reviewing injury and accident reports for city employees. Richardson also responds to fire calls, vehicle accidents and arson investigations on behalf of the fire department.

What Residents Can Do

With its strong public safety department, Woodbury residents can rest assured that they are in good hands in the event of an emergency. That said, Richardson also emphasizes that residents can take measures of their own to achieve emergency preparedness. Especially in the coldest winter months, he says, a little planning ahead can be immensely important.

Richardson suggests that residents keep both their homes and vehicles stocked with basic supplies for emergency preparedness. He notes that with Minnesota's exceptionally cold and long winters, it's a good habit to keep your vehicle prepared for a breakdown. He suggests keeping a blanket or two in the truck of the car, as well as a spare tire and basic tools in case of a flat, extra winter clothing, hand warmers and some form of emergency illumination (such as reflectors or lights). “One major aspect of preparedness is having access to communication,” he says. “Make sure to keep your cell phone charged and accessible should the need to call for help arise.”

At home, Richardson says, keep a flashlight or lantern for an alternate light source in the event of a power outage. If you have a fireplace, make sure to have it cleaned and maintained regularly to keep it in safe working condition. Keep a stock of non-perishable food and fresh water especially for emergencies. Richardson also recommends a family communication plan: Where will you meet if phones aren’t available, or if you can’t return to your home or neighborhood in an emergency? “Safety is all about being prepared,” Richardson says. “A few simple preparations can make all the difference.”


Emergency Preparedness

For more information on emergency preparedness in the city of Woodbury, go to ci.woodbury.mn.us/emergency-preparedness.